Development of a Uniform Approach to Writing and Grading of Laboratory Reports in Horticultural Science Courses

Neil O. Anderson, Emily E. Hoover, Bernadette Longo, Marjorie Ross


Written scientific communication, such as laboratory reports, are important components of undergraduate education
within the sciences. Since most Horticultural Science majors offer lecture- and lab-based courses, students often
write laboratory reports for many courses across the curriculum and these reports comprise a large percentage of the
writing assignments in these classes. Instructors link learning objectives with laboratory reports to reinforce course
content. Students have noted inconsistencies across horticulture courses in requirements for laboratory report writing,
which often leads to confusion. Thus, development of a grading rubric would improve the continuity of expectations
of laboratory report writing and grading within a Horticultural Science curriculum for instructors teaching courses
requiring laboratory reports.
When focusing just on laboratory writing in the curriculum, surveys and interviews indicated that a disconnect exists
between what instructors expect of their students and what the stated learning outcomes were for their courses.
Student’s ability to analyze results was seen as both a strength and weakness, as reported from faculty responses. In
lower division courses, analyzing results from student’s experiments was a weakness while in upper division courses
faculty responses were mixed as to whether students had the skills to sufficiently analyze results from their
When a grading rubric was trialed, students indicated that use of the same rubric in other Horticultural Science
courses would demystify the process of conducting research and communicating it effectively in laboratory reports.
For this work to expand, one or more standard rubrics need to be developed for use by Horticultural Science courses
within an institution to enhance our students’ abilities to become competent writers in this form of scientific
communication. A baseline rubric for courses at the 3000 level was developed to serve as a template to further this

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Copyright (c) 2017 Neil O. Anderson, Emily E. Hoover, Bernadette Longo, Marjorie Ross

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)  Email:

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